After a brief break over the holidays, picket lines are now back up as 330 Teamsters continue to withhold labor as part of an Unfair Labor Practice strike. The strike began on November 19 with 34 workers at Gary Merlino Construction but has since expanded into a general strike targeting Gary Merlino, Stoneway Concrete, Cadman, CalPortland/Glacier, Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, and Lehigh Cement. The workers are all members of Teamsters Local 174 and are on strike in protest of the six Companies’ refusal to bargain in good faith. The contracts have been expired since July 31, 2021.
With the holidays in the rearview mirror, the struggle for a fair contract has taken on even greater importance. Without concrete, construction projects throughout the Puget Sound region will quickly run out of work for other construction trades to perform, forcing the layoff of potentially thousands of workers. The ripple effect of the employers’ refusal to return to the bargaining table with the Teamsters could devastate the local economy – and this comes on top of the impact their arrogance has already had on working families in the Seattle area, many of whom have not seen a paycheck in weeks.
The spokesman for the Employers’ side, Charlie Oliver of Gary Merlino Construction, has not spoken a word to the Teamsters in nearly six weeks. Meanwhile, contractors working on construction projects throughout the region have begun to threaten lawsuits if the concrete does not start flowing again soon, even though the National Labor Relations Act and the Teamsters’ expired contracts with the Companies protect the workers’ right to withhold their labor until a contract is reached. Local politicians have also gotten involved in the dispute in an effort to restart negotiations.
“The arrogance from the Employers, in this case, is absolutely astounding and cannot be allowed to continue unchecked,” said Teamsters Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks. “Because of Charlie Oliver’s inexperience at negotiating and Don Merlino’s refusal to answer the phone, we have 330 people on strike, 330 families wondering if they are going to lose their healthcare coverage, and thousands more workers on layoff and collecting unemployment benefits from the state. We have major construction projects halted, Affordable Housing projects losing money they cannot afford to lose, and laid-off families growing more desperate by the day.”
“How much damage can one man’s ego be allowed to do?” Hicks continued. “The Teamsters have remained willing to sit down and negotiate in good faith. We are ready to bargain a fair deal that treats our members with the same respect already shown to the other construction trades when negotiating their contracts earlier this year. All we want is fairness. Let’s put Seattle construction workers’ interests ahead of the Merlinos’ egos.”
Read press release at Teamsters 174